- Sputnik International, 1920, 25.02.2022
Russia's Special Operation in Ukraine
On February 24, Russia launched a special military operation in Ukraine, aiming to liberate the Donbass region where the people's republics of Donetsk and Lugansk had been living under regular attacks from Kiev's forces.

Sweden, Finland Inching Closer Toward NATO Amid Russia's Ukraine Op, Poll Shows

© AP Photo / RONI LEHTI / Lehtikuva via AP, FILEIn this file photo dated Aug. 29, 2014, NATO naval mine countermeasure vessels berth in Turku, Finland, during the international Northern Coasts 2014 (NOCO14) military exercise
In this file photo dated Aug. 29, 2014, NATO naval mine countermeasure vessels berth in Turku, Finland, during the international Northern Coasts 2014 (NOCO14) military exercise - Sputnik International, 1920, 28.02.2022
Both Finland and Sweden have maintained a lively collaboration with the North Atlantic alliance through joint drills and overseas operations while retaining their formal non-alignment.
Following the start of Russia's special operation in Ukraine, which the West portrays as an “invasion”, more Swedes are in favour of joining NATO than against it for the first time on record in the historically non-aligned country.
In a fresh February survey by pollster Novus, 41 percent of Swedes appeared to be in favour of NATO membership. 35 percent said they were against and 24 percent were undecided. The proportion of those in favour has increased, whereas the share of those sitting on the fence has decreased in comparison with the recent poll. By contrast, the share of those against joining NATO remained unchanged.

“As a follow-up question, we have asked if they are afraid of Russia as a great power, and that proportion has increased significantly in this survey,” Novus CEO Torbjörn Sjöström told national broadcaster SVT, drawing a clear link to Russia's special operation in Ukraine he called an “invasion”.

According to Sjöström, the same trend was witnessed amid the unsuccessful hunt for a “Russian submarine” in the Stockholm archipelago in 2014, where the Swedish navy heavily mobilised amid a media panic. A subsequent investigation turned out that the “submarine” appeared to be a faulty weather buoy.

“I would be surprised if the share in favour of a membership would go down again. The discussion about NATO will continue for several years and the more the debate goes on, I rather think that the proportion of insecure will decrease further,” Sjöström ventured.

In neighbouring Finland, meanwhile, a citizens' initiative demanding a referendum on a Finnish application to join NATO has passed the 50,000 signatures required for consideration by parliament, national broadcaster Yle reported.
The signatures were gathered in a matter of several days. Its authors had mentioned a tenser security situation in the Baltic Sea as a reason for Finland to permanently commit to security guarantees with its partners and suggested that NATO accession would “significantly enhance” Finland's ability to defend itself from external threats.
However, it is possible that the current parliament might run out of time to discuss the initiative before elections due in 2023, as over 20 similar initiatives are in currently pending consideration. Should this happen, a new initiative may be required to force a debate.
Despite their formal non-alignment for historic reasons, both Finland and Sweden have been drawing nearer NATO in recent years, a process facilitated by joint drills and training activities, military acquisitions from the Washington and its partners, and participation in overseas missions. Inside both countries, there is a strong political sentiment in favour of joining NATO manifest among high-ranking members of the military and several parties.
Sweden also announced a historic decision to help Ukraine with munitions, for the first time sending arms to a conflict zone since the Winter War of 1939 to support neighbouring Finland against the Soviet Union, despite previously voicing scepticism. Finland, meanwhile, is set to grant a permit for Estonia to export artillery to Ukraine; Estonia had acquired the military equipment from its former partner.
On February 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a special military operation in Ukraine in response to an appeal from the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics, which Russia had formally recognised earlier that week.
Moscow has emphasised that it has no plans to conquer or occupy Ukraine and that the operation's goal is to protect civilians from genocide and defend the DPR and LPR from Kiev's aggression, as well as demilitarise and de-Nazify Ukriane.
The Russian Defence Ministry stressed that the military does not threaten Ukrainian cities or civilians, with Ukrainian military infrastructure being the main target to be disabled with high-precision weapons.
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